The Future of Digital Distribution

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PerryVandell

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Edited By PerryVandell

 When the PSP Go was announced, it caused a stir in the gaming community, as it was the first gaming device (excluding phones) that couldn't use physical media to read games. Instead, digital distribution was the only option given to PSP Go owners, which begs the question, "Will physical media become obsolete and replaced by games that are download-only?" It's a tough question, as services like Steam, XBL, PSN, etc., have become hugely successful, partly due to the sales of down-loadable titles, yet the majority of console games are only commercially available in a disc-based format. If a download-only future is to exist, it's safe to say it won't be for a while.

While digital distribution is popular, there are many people (i.e. kids) who rely on the ability to play games without an internet connection. There aren't many young kids with

 I love it for its amazing deals, and hate it for its amazing deals
 I love it for its amazing deals, and hate it for its amazing deals
internet access in their rooms, and a download-only system would keep them from being precious customers. The only time games will stop being sold in a disc format is when the sales don't cover the manufacturing costs, and I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Another thing to take into account is the size of games. For those who don't know, most games these days are pretty damn big (usually ranging from 2-15 gigs) and can take ages to download, depending on your internet connection. If the popularity of digital distribution is to increase, then the average internet speed needs to increase as well. Many people (like me) are impatient, and like to play games immediately after they buy them. Think about it. Who wants to spend 50-60 dollars for a game and then say "Yeah! I own <insert game here>! Now I just need to wait 4 hours or so before I can play it!"? Granted, game installs from a disc aren't instantaneous, but they're a hell of a lot faster than downloading the game from a server.

Those past two paragraphs are pretty negative towards digital distribution, and to clarify, I love digital distribution. I myself am a very disorganized person and generally have to sift through my console games in order to find the one I want. Applications like Steam allow me to access all my games from one spot, instead of resorting to a full system search of "some_game.exe". Also, I would hate to think what would happen if the games I bought on Steam were transformed into game cases. Let's not go there.

 If only I could get to this screen faster...and not in Windows 2000
 If only I could get to this screen faster...and not in Windows 2000
What I would like to see happen, is what happened with Starcraft II. Allow the user to buy the game disc, install it on their computer, 360, PS3, Wii etc. and then have that game registered to that specific account so you no longer need the disc anymore. The game would be shown on your account and then you could download it from the companies' servers anytime you wanted without having to go Indiana Jones on your desk/shelf/alternate storage device. Of course, what I want and what will happen are generally two very different things. I'm guessing that if my disc/download hybrid idea ever did come to fruition, there would most likely be some sort of fee involved, as bandwidth ain't cheap. I'm not going to go into all the business mumbo jumbo of what would work best and how that particular situation should be handled, but it's something to keep in mind.

So what is the definitive answer to the blog title? Well, there really isn't one. Sorry if that was misleading, but I'm not going to lie to you and say "This is what companies are doing and it will happen at this time". However, I wouldn't say that my ideas are without merit, and maybe some of my hypotheses will turn out right. The answer to the question, "What will happen to digital distribution" rests upon you, the consumer. If more people buy games from Steam, XBL, PSN, Wii Shop Channel, etc., then digital distribution will continue to grow. If not, then it probably won't. It's up to you and everyone else regarding where digital distribution ends up.

So, that's what I've got to say about that matter. If you enjoyed the read, tell me. If you didn't, tell me why. If you have thoughts/opinions about the new age of digital distribution, feel free to share as I enjoy the discussion, but if you want to keep your precious company secrets secret that's fine too. Either way, thanks for reading!
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PerryVandell

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#1  Edited By PerryVandell

 When the PSP Go was announced, it caused a stir in the gaming community, as it was the first gaming device (excluding phones) that couldn't use physical media to read games. Instead, digital distribution was the only option given to PSP Go owners, which begs the question, "Will physical media become obsolete and replaced by games that are download-only?" It's a tough question, as services like Steam, XBL, PSN, etc., have become hugely successful, partly due to the sales of down-loadable titles, yet the majority of console games are only commercially available in a disc-based format. If a download-only future is to exist, it's safe to say it won't be for a while.

While digital distribution is popular, there are many people (i.e. kids) who rely on the ability to play games without an internet connection. There aren't many young kids with

 I love it for its amazing deals, and hate it for its amazing deals
 I love it for its amazing deals, and hate it for its amazing deals
internet access in their rooms, and a download-only system would keep them from being precious customers. The only time games will stop being sold in a disc format is when the sales don't cover the manufacturing costs, and I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Another thing to take into account is the size of games. For those who don't know, most games these days are pretty damn big (usually ranging from 2-15 gigs) and can take ages to download, depending on your internet connection. If the popularity of digital distribution is to increase, then the average internet speed needs to increase as well. Many people (like me) are impatient, and like to play games immediately after they buy them. Think about it. Who wants to spend 50-60 dollars for a game and then say "Yeah! I own <insert game here>! Now I just need to wait 4 hours or so before I can play it!"? Granted, game installs from a disc aren't instantaneous, but they're a hell of a lot faster than downloading the game from a server.

Those past two paragraphs are pretty negative towards digital distribution, and to clarify, I love digital distribution. I myself am a very disorganized person and generally have to sift through my console games in order to find the one I want. Applications like Steam allow me to access all my games from one spot, instead of resorting to a full system search of "some_game.exe". Also, I would hate to think what would happen if the games I bought on Steam were transformed into game cases. Let's not go there.

 If only I could get to this screen faster...and not in Windows 2000
 If only I could get to this screen faster...and not in Windows 2000
What I would like to see happen, is what happened with Starcraft II. Allow the user to buy the game disc, install it on their computer, 360, PS3, Wii etc. and then have that game registered to that specific account so you no longer need the disc anymore. The game would be shown on your account and then you could download it from the companies' servers anytime you wanted without having to go Indiana Jones on your desk/shelf/alternate storage device. Of course, what I want and what will happen are generally two very different things. I'm guessing that if my disc/download hybrid idea ever did come to fruition, there would most likely be some sort of fee involved, as bandwidth ain't cheap. I'm not going to go into all the business mumbo jumbo of what would work best and how that particular situation should be handled, but it's something to keep in mind.

So what is the definitive answer to the blog title? Well, there really isn't one. Sorry if that was misleading, but I'm not going to lie to you and say "This is what companies are doing and it will happen at this time". However, I wouldn't say that my ideas are without merit, and maybe some of my hypotheses will turn out right. The answer to the question, "What will happen to digital distribution" rests upon you, the consumer. If more people buy games from Steam, XBL, PSN, Wii Shop Channel, etc., then digital distribution will continue to grow. If not, then it probably won't. It's up to you and everyone else regarding where digital distribution ends up.

So, that's what I've got to say about that matter. If you enjoyed the read, tell me. If you didn't, tell me why. If you have thoughts/opinions about the new age of digital distribution, feel free to share as I enjoy the discussion, but if you want to keep your precious company secrets secret that's fine too. Either way, thanks for reading!
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Synthballs

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#2  Edited By Synthballs

I like Digital Distribution, but as an Australian, I have a meagre 60GB of downloads a month. It doesn't take a lot to fill that up. I love the convenience of having everything here when I want it. I don't like the whole waiting process but it's  worth it in the end I spose.  
 
Also, those deals will be the death of me. Especially around game conventions. 
 
Btw, you pick up Serious Sam HD?

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PerryVandell

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#3  Edited By PerryVandell
@Synthballs:  Afraid I had to pass on Serious Sam. I never really got into that series, and I still have Dragon Age: Origins, Civ 5, and Deus Ex to play. Not to mention there's Steam's infamous holiday sale. That thing can drain your bank account faster than a Nigerian prince.
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deactivated-5fb7c57ae2335

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@Fullmetal216: You are complaining because you have to wait 4 hours to play a game?  
 
It took me 36 hours to download Crysis.
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PerryVandell

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#5  Edited By PerryVandell
@InfamousBIG: Waiting to play a game for 4 hours sucks. I will agree that waiting 36 hours sucks a lot more.
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deactivated-5fb7c57ae2335

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@Fullmetal216:  
Yeah, what's driving me nuts now is that I just finished pre loading Dead Rising 2, but it doesn't unlock until Tuesday.  Had to break down and finally buy Garry's Mod to keep me occupied and my mind off it until then.
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#7  Edited By Llama

On my line (50mbit) Steam is actually faster than going out, getting to the store, installing the game, downloading patches etc. Trip to store/install etc: probably 1 to 2 hours. Downloading Mass Effect (10GB), 20 to 40 minutes. And while its downloading i can actually do something useful :P Digital Distribution IS the future.

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#8  Edited By recroulette

Everytime someone says something relating the PSPgo and Digital Distribution, I say this.
 
PSPgo was dead before it even came out, and it had nothing to do with DD.
The higher price to the console while taking away features, and the refusal by Sony to force companies to make digital versions of all new releases killed that system.

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#9  Edited By s7evn

I like really like steam as a DD system.

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Fajita_Jim

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#10  Edited By Fajita_Jim

Understand that the internet is still young. We've had telephone service for over 100 years, and the internet didn't really take off as a consumer 'application' until the mid-90's. Hell, I remember when you were lucky if you lived in an area that could even get internet, and I'm talking 300-baud dial-up. 
 
The internet will become ubiquitous within our lifetimes. They're already hiding Wi-Fi stations in lamp posts and fake palm trees, fast-forward 25 years and you won't be able to escape internet coverage. Even in developing nations the internet is becoming commonplace, because you can place a whole lot of infrastructure on the net that used to take brick-and-mortar or at the very least utility poles.
 
I remember thinking 56K was as fast as it would get...how silly does that seem now? In just a few short years, the speeds we surf with now will seem as paltry as dial-up does to us now. 
 
DD is the future, just not today for everyone.

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iam3green

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#11  Edited By iam3green

i like it but i don't. i have a slow internet so it takes a while to download things. one thing that i don't like about it is that when i'm downloading a game i can't really surf the internet because it slows down the internet. i don't want to see consoles becoming digital because you don't know what they are planning.

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#12  Edited By mosdl

Business Idea  - Steam Kiosks as grocery stores that can burn games on demand from steam so you don't have to download them.